Project ECHO, the University of New Mexico School of Medicine’s tele-mentoring initiative for medical providers, has been awarded $237 million dollars in federal funding.

An award of this size is unprecedented. In comparison, all of the Health Sciences Center’s awards for the 2020 fiscal year totaled $202 million, according to Mark Rudi, an HSC spokesperson.

The program is designed to provide “remote-infection control training and technical assistance,” according to a press release from the UNM Health Sciences Newsroom.



This training will educate nursing home employees on how to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak within their facility and, if an outbreak should arise, how to contain the spread in a timely manner.

The funding initiative is part of another phase in the $5 billion Provider Relief Fund, a part of the COVID Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Project ECHO is also in a partnership with the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

“Protecting vulnerable older Americans in nursing homes is a central part of our fight against COVID-19,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. “Improving infection control in many nursing homes is not a matter of will but of skill.”

The program’s director, Dr. Sanjeev Arora, was humbled by the decision to fund his project, citing the importance of sharing best practices during a critical time.

“We are honored to help address this urgent need for the health system,” Arora said.

Project ECHO has already identified more than 140 training hubs within its network. Each hub will be working approximately 100 to 200 nursing homes, providing each with “group learning and mentorship in how to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections,” per an HSC press release.

More than 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes will have access to Project ECHO and the services it provides.

The funding approval is the culmination of 20 years of work on Project ECHO. Originally, the project was funded by the AHRQ. Now, two decades later, Project ECHO and AHRQ have joined forces again to help provide infection control training to facilities across the nation.

Dr. Michael E. Richards, the interim executive vice president for the HSC, spoke about the impact Project ECHO could have during the pandemic.

“Project ECHO is uniquely positioned to expand the use of proven safety practices that can benefit the residents of nursing home and long-term care facilities — and help save lives,” Richards said.

ECHO programs have been used in over 400 partner institutions that span 40 countries around the world, and after the pandemic began these programs were adapted into a rapid support network to provide necessary safety information to frontline health care workers.

Gino Gutierrez is the managing editor and sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @GGutierrez_48